Strategies to Right-Size Your Portions

Families, Food and Fitness November 19, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Portion sizes have gotten larger over the past 20 years, and so have Americans. Larger portions add up. Just 100 extra calories per day can lead to a weight gain of 10 pounds per year. There are many different ways to control portions. One of the first is to know the correct size of a portion.

1. Learn What a Normal Portion Looks Like

Learn to recognize normal portion sizes and stick to them when dining out or serving meals at home. Keep these tips in mind: 3 ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand; 1 ounce of meat is the size of a matchbook; 1 cup of potatoes, rice, or pasta looks like a tennis ball.

tape measure in coffee cup

2. Keep Seconds Out of Sight

Don't serve meals family-style. Keep pots and serving dishes away from the table where it's all too easy to go for seconds. It is easier to rethink second helpings as you make your way from the table to the stovetop. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes to feel satiated. By giving yourself time to think, you may realize you were not hungry enough for another helping after all.

3. Break Leftovers Down

Instead of using one large container to store leftovers such as casseroles, side dishes, or pasta, why not separate them into individually sized containers? That way, when you reach in the fridge to find something to reheat, you're retrieving just enough for one helping. Breaking down meal-sized servings into single servings will help you limit your food intake with no additional effort.

4. Order a Kid's Size Meal

If you go to fast-food places, you can automatically control portions (and save money!) by ordering a kid's size meal. Don't be embarrassed about asking for a child's meal. It's really no big deal. If a restaurant has a "12 and under" policy for ordering a child’s meal, order it to go.

Tiny Tastes Can Total Big Calories Over the Winter Holidays

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.